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Privacy Biotech Science

Identifying a Culprit In a Bloodbath 47

worromot writes "A group of geneticists published a method to determine if a given individual's DNA is present in a mixture (e.g., in a pool of blood on a carpet). An individual's DNA can comprise less than 1% of the mixture. (The article is in open access on PLoS Genetics website.) While this is a potential boon for forensics, there are more immediate worries about the privacy of the participants of the genetics studies that had been under way for many years. As Science magazine writes, 'The discovery that a type of genetic data that is widely shared and often posted online can be traced back to individuals has prompted the US National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust to strip some genetic data from their publicly accessible Web sites and NIH to recommend that other institutions do the same.' The gravest worry was that an individual who had someone's genetic code could determine, based on the pooled data, whether the person participated in a disease study and whether they were in the disease group, or thereby glean private health information. NIH plans to ask institutions that have posted pooled data on their own Web sites to take these down, too."
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Identifying a Culprit In a Bloodbath

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  • In the News (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 06, 2008 @03:54PM (#24904203)

    Here are some more links to news and discussion (thanks google):

    Protecting Aggregate Genomic Data Elias A. Zerhouni and Elizabeth G. Nabel (4 September 2008) Science [DOI: 10.1126/science.1165490]

    Science 5 September 2008, Vol.321 no. 5894 p. 1278

    Science Now

    Nature News

    Nature News

    New Scientist

    Financial Times (UK)

    LA Times,0,1478453.story

    AZ Republic

    El Mundo

    Times (UK)

    Genome Web #1

    Genome Web #2


    Medical News Today


    There is a invited discussion forum in Plos Genetics:

  • Race (Score:5, Informative)

    by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @04:13PM (#24904377)

    A lot of SNPs and coding regions can be used to identify haplotypes- e.g. we might know that the probability of finding an A rather than a T at a particular base position on chromosome 3 is 90% for Asians and 20% for everyone else, or 40% of people with Huntingdon's and 90% of people without, etc. If you can gather SNP information from locations that are spread out across linkage points on different chromosomes, you can pretty much pin down the phenotype of the guy if any data has ever been gathered specifically mapping the phenotype distribution to the base pair probability. And if you're being genotyped, they'll know your race along with a lot of other phenotypic information about you from the paperwork they'll have you fill out.

    This is a weird situation, because race is only one of many attributes you have that you have no control over, but we obviously single it out and make it a sore spot. Now that they can genotype bloodbaths, will we get lynchings of color blind guys to come from this? Probably not, but I can easily imagine something like this igniting racial tensions.

  • Re:CSI trend (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 06, 2008 @07:27PM (#24906189)

    It seems far-fetched and easy to deal with using existing laws saying what you can and can not ask prospective employees.

    Clearly you've not been through a session on interview techniques. So what if they ask you stuff they are legally prohibited from asking. Often your reaction will be a sufficient answer for their purposes. If you comply, they have what they want. If you resist, Gee, you don't have quite the match for the skillset we were hoping for. If you think you can file a lawsuit, how will you prove what went on behind closed doors? Wear a wire? No way -- in any two-party-consent state, it's an illegal wiretap. So for all practical purposes, you may as well just get down on all fours and tug your cheeks wide.

    Even if you win your case, do you really want to work in the resulting poisoned atmosphere?

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll invite himself over for dinner. - Calvin Keegan